Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Cotton Reboot! (NSW) Review

SuperPhillip Central heads into the final stretch of July with some new reviews. First up is a game that launched on Tuesday for the Nintendo Switch: Cotton Reboot! Let's check out this 2-in-1 shoot-em-up package together with the SPC review.

A bewitching shoot-em-up package

In reviewing Cotton Reboot! I had to do a little research on the series as I'm not just a complete neophyte regarding the Cotton series but also pretty basic when it comes to shoot-em-ups in general, so join me on this quick history lesson, if you please! The original Cotton, a shoot-em-up starring a young witch flying on a broom, released in Japanese arcades in 1991. The game would later be ported from arcades to the X68000 computer, as well as other platforms such as the PlayStation, to name one. With it being 2021 and all, the series celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and in celebration of that milestone, Beep and Success have put together a 2-in-1 package featuring both the aforementioned X68000 version of the game and an all-new arranged remake version. This 1-2 punch makes for a package that is well put together and well worth looking into for fans of the shoot-em-up genre.

No matter which version of the game you opt to play first--and you should very much play both as they're equally worthwhile--the story sees a young witch with an insatiable sweet tooth (particularly of the candy variety) named Cotton who with some coaxing from a pint-sized, scantily-clad fairy named Silk, decides to go on an adventure to collect seven pieces of Willow candy. In doing so, Cotton is led to believe that when all pieces of the candy are collected from the monsters that guard them, the candy will transform into one massive Willow for her to gobble on to her heart's desire. Each level has anime art scenes bookending them, and these are humorous and well done. 

The Arrange version of Cotton Reboot! is absolutely stellar in appearance and to play.
The X6800 might not have all its bells and whistles, but it's also enjoyable.

Whether playing the X68000 version or the Arrange version, you're in for seven levels of horizontal--and occasionally vertical--side-scrolling action. Enemies ranging from bats and flying eyeballs, to frogs and chimeras, routinely swoop in, ready to pelt the player with projectiles. Like a typical shoot-em-up, take one hit and you lose a life. Lose all three lives and you need to use a continue. Fortunately, no quarters are obviously needed this time around! You can select your starting stock of lives in the options menu, but this will however prevent you from posting your high score to the online worldwide rankings, one for each version of the game. 

The original X68000 version runs and plays flawlessly, offering the entire game in its retro glory. It's a less frantic and frenetic experience than the Arrange version, also delivering a simpler version of the game to play and enjoy. 

The Arrange mode, by comparison, feels like a completely different beast, and one that is also enjoyable. Cotton moves quicker, her shots fire out in a larger range, and enemies bite the literal bullets and face the reaper faster. With more enemies on screen and more powerful bosses than in the X68000 version, this is a welcomed change indeed. 

Hasn't this mid-boss ever heard the saying: Tree's a crowd?

Cotton is part shoot-em-up and part RPG in some aspects. Collecting gems of different colors provides different bonuses. Yellow and orange gems provide experience points for Cotton, increasing the power of her standard shot in the process. Then, there are red, blue, green, and purple gems (the latter two gem types are only in Arrange) that provide magic to use in the form of blazing fire and lightning strikes, for instance. While the X68000 version's gems would quickly fall to the ground or off the edge of the screen, requiring deft maneuvering or juggling to pick them up before meeting that fate, Arrange's gems kindly stay in place, hovering on screen, ready to be collected by Cotton.

Scoring, too, has been changed, offering the Frenzy gauge. This gauge on the lower-left corner of the screen is a multiplier that increases with how long Cotton lives and how much it is used. It's filled by defeating enemies and collecting gems, and once full, it can be used to fire shots that turn defeated enemies into massive amounts of points that span large quantities of the screen. This only lasts an incredibly temporary amount of time before the gauge empties and must be filled again. Thus, it's important to use Frenzies when enemies infest the screen for the best scoring opportunities. When used correctly, it feels great to see points literally litter the screen as it racks up your score to impressive values.

That said, that does lead to one of the only problems with Cotton Reboot! and its Arrange mode. There are a lot of effects that happen on screen at once, and while the game generally does a good job at distinguishing between them, a lot of times when tons of effects and graphics are happening on screen, things like bullets can be obscured and hidden from view. This was most apparent in the sixth stage of the game, a volcano-based stage where a combination of tight surroundings, copious amounts of enemies, using magic, and lots of enemy bullets and other hazards resulted in plenty of unexpected errors and unintended deaths. The clutter on screen can be very real and very detrimental to Cotton's health and wellbeing. 

Litter the screen with Cotton's bullets; just don't accidentally run into an enemy's!

There isn't a credits system where after losing all of your lives, you game over unless you let the countdown run out. Thus, it's quite easy to beat Cotton Reboot's two versions within an hour and call it a day--even if you have died an immense amount of times. That said, to play an arcade game like that isn't really worthwhile. Instead, these types of games demand replays through not only enjoying the experiences again, but improving until you get to a point where you can shoot to or near the top of the leaderboards and even go for that fabled one-credit clear. While most players probably won't do the latter, aiming and shooting to best your own scores is always a fun self-imposed challenge to do. 

While in-game achievements would have been enjoyable to present other player types with a certain carrot-on-stick approach, there is some more meat to Cotton Reboot's figurative bones. Two other playable characters aside from Cotton can be played as, each with varied play styles, and there are two time attack modes that put you in a side-scrolling arena for each two or five minutes against a horde of enemies. Both of these time attack modes have their own leaderboards to try to reach the top of, too. Thus, there's no shortage of stuff to do and keep yourself occupied with if you're a fan of arcade-style shoot-em-ups.

Activate your Frenzy to seriously rack up the points!

The type of player who wishes to play through one or both versions of Cotton--whether it be the X68000 or the Arrange version--die a bunch, plow through lives, and then consider the game "done" when the credits roll, probably won't find much value from Cotton Reboot. However, those who appreciate arcade games, especially in the shoot-em-up style of yesteryear, will find loads to enjoy about the game. While the X68000 original offers a calmer, more focused and simpler approach compared to the more complex and eye-popping approach of the Arrange version, I personally loved both versions, feeling there are pros and cons with each. Either way, you're in for a wild and exciting ride with both versions and all of the modes featured within Cotton Reboot.

[SPC Says: B]

A code was received by SPC from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.

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